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Liberia: a fragile peace allows an expansion of ICRC operations

31-03-2004 Operational Update

The people of Liberia are emerging from 14 years of civil war and a fragile stability is now permitting people to begin returning to their homes in the country's interior. In response, the ICRC has expanded its operations to help them rebuild their shattered lives.

 

 
Monrovia. Queueing at a UN checkpoint.©ICRC/M Bleich/ref. LR-D-00041 
 

The delicate UN-supported peace that now reigns in Liberia gives ground for some optimism that the country's long civil war may finally be over. Although the situation is not completely stabilized, hundreds of thousands of civilians have now begun to return to their homes in villages in the interior of the country and this has led the ICRC to alter its priorities during the first part of 2004.

Assistance has gradually been expanded to cover not only internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in and around the capital, Monrovia, but also the resident population and the increasing number of re-settlers in rural areas. ICRC staff numbers have therefore been expanded and now amount to 207 national staff and 51 expatriates working around the country. Almost 700 volunteers from the Liberian National Red Cross Society assist the ICRC in its operational activities.

 Protection   

The ICRC now has access to some areas of the country that were previously too dangerous to work in, including the most troubled (Gbarpolu, Bong, Nimba, River Cess, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, Lofa) of the country's 15 counties (see map). A third sub-delegation was recently opened in Saniquelle, Nimba County.

 
  Brewerville. A mural depicts ICRC activities in Liberia .©ICRC/M Bleich/ref. LR-e-00048 
 

ICRC delegates regularly monitored the situation in and around refugee/IDP camps in Montserrado, Bong, Grand Bassa and Margibi counties. They also carried out 19 visits to 11 detention centres around the country and distributed aid to 200 persons detained. On exceptional humanitarian grounds, the ICRC assisted the authorities in the rehabilitation of part of the Monrovia Central Prison.

Working with the Liberian National Red Cross Society and the ICRC sub-delegations, the tracing department reinforced its activities to respond to the needs of the displaced and refugee population by strengthening its Red Cross Message network in all counties. More than 200 volunteers of the LNRCS collected over 14,000 and distributed more than 7,500 RCMs between January and March.

During the same period, 114 Liberian children living in neighbouring countries were reunited with their families in Liberia.

 
 
Monrovia, Medical assistance is a priority.©ICRC/M Bleich/ref. LR-D-00031 
 

 Assistance   

The ICRC continued to provide health services to the war-wounded, IDPs, resident population and returnees in Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Bomi and Lofa counties. Three hospitals (JFK/Surgical Trauma hospital in Monrovia, the Stephen A. Tolbert Memorial Hospital in Buchanan and the Liberian Government Hospital in Tubmanburg) were supported with medical and surgical supplies and financial assistance.

The ICRC continued to provide 24-hour preventive and curative health services to IDPs in the Blamacee Camp. 

Since the opening of the sub-delegation in Voinjama, Lofa County in October 2003 primary health care support has been provided to five health clinics in the absence of medical NGOs.
 

 Water and Habitat   

The water and habitat department (WATHAB) is involved in the construction and rehabilitation of wells, latrines, bathhouses, shelters and garbage pits across the country with a renewed emphasis in resident populations in rural Liberia. Around 40 per cent of activities, however, are still concentrated on IDP camps and institutions like the Interim Care Centre and Monrovia Central Prison.

 

Monrovia. A pump brings water to displaced persons.©ICRC/M Bleich/ref. LR-D-00031 
WATHAB has rehabilitated 30 wells (27 in Lofa and Bong, 3 in Grand Gedeh), constructing a further 13 and disinfecting 430 traditional open wells. Six public latrines are being constructed as pilot projects. At two care centres for former child combatants, WATHAB has built two protected wells with hand pumps.

WATHAB continued its assistance to 58,000 IDPs in five camps in Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties.

 Economic Security   

A major activity of the ICRC during an armed conflict and its aftermath is economic security. This involves providing essential household items (kitchen sets, sleeping mats and hygiene products, shelter provision and agricultural assistance to IDPs and residents). During the early part of 2004, the ICRC's focus has been on the resident and returning population in Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Nimba and Gbarpolu counties. Altogether, 30,000 families (a total of 150,000 persons) benefited from this work.

Despite the new focus, the ICRC continued to cater for eight IDP camps, assisting more than 6,300 families.

In addition, more than 25,000 family heads benefited from the distribution of tools, bean and vegetable s eeds.

 Cooperation   

    

The ICRC assists and supports the Liberian Red Cross to strengthen its capacity and expand its network to respond to the needs of separated families. Four new chapter offices are being constructed and three others are being renovated. 

The ICRC is also assisting the Liberian Red Cross to maintain its preparedness to respond to humanitarian needs arising from armed conflict and to promote international humanitarian law to civil and military authorities.